37. Separation Anxiety
The boys were off at the stables to see a new foal, and would be gone until midday. I was enjoying a bit of quiet and catching up on the mending, which I had been ignoring shamefully.
I had finished that task, and was now trying to knit a blanket. My eldest brother had written, relaying the news that he was soon to be a father, and though I had not seen him in years and had never met his wife, I knew that I would be expected to send some sort of gift.
I was so involved in the process – my knitting skills were terribly rusty – that I jumped when the nursery door creaked open, and Faramir entered.
It was early for him to be back – lunch was not for another hour, and they never returned from the stables until they absolutely had to. "Faramir, is all well?" I asked, then I saw that he was near tears. I started to stand and go to him, but he made straight for me, climbed into my lap, and began sobbing into my shoulder.
He was too upset to talk, so I simply held him and rocked him, wondering what on earth had happened. He did not act as if he had been injured, and I could see no marks or scrapes on him. And his weeping did not sound as if he was in pain.
At length, his crying faded, and, worried, I asked, "Little one, whatever is wrong?"
He looked at me, face blotchy and distressed, and whispered, "Boromir doesn't like me any more."
"What?" I was startled. "Why would you think that?"
His chin wobbled, and his eyes threatened to overflow again. "He told me that I was a baby and I couldn't play with him and the other boys and that," he gasped for air, "and that I had to go away and find some other baby to play with."
I winced inwardly, even I tried to suppress my irritation. Of late, Boromir had been more domineering than usual, and there had been more than one quarrel between the brothers. I was content to keep an eye on the arguments, and let them work out their differences on their own, but I had been obliged to intervene several times when such rows degenerated into full-blown shouting matches.
"I am sorry that Boromir said such things to you," I told Faramir, smoothing his hair. "Will you tell me what happened?"
"We looked at the foal and then he wanted to go with the other boys to the guardhouse and I wanted to go with them but Boromir – " his voice broke pitifully "- Boromir said he was tired of me following him around all the time and he said I couldn't come and that he wanted to play with boys big as him instead of a little baby who doesn't even have a real sword yet!" Faramir was crying again, and he buried his face against me, clinging to my neck as if I were his only friend.
I let him weep. I knew that Boromir had not meant to hurt his little brother's feelings, and I knew that at nine years old, he did think himself too old to spend time on the quieter games Faramir often liked to play. But I would never have expected him to lash in such a way – for all that he ordered Faramir about like a raw recruit, Boromir was not a mean-spirited child. I wondered who "the other boys" were, for I knew stablemen's lads were happy to play with Faramir, even if they were older than he was.
After a bit, he calmed again. "Why doesn't he like me any more, Nanny? I can't have a real sword yet, Father said not til I'm seven." He was so bewildered and wounded that I wanted to find Boromir and shake him until his teeth rattled.
I hesitated, then said, "He still likes you, rabbit", as I wiped his face with the blanket I had been knitting. It did not matter – I had made a poor job of it anyhow.
"No he doesn't," Faramir protested sadly, leaning against me. "He doesn't want me around him, he said."
I sighed, trying to find a way to explain that would not hurt Faramir's feelings further. "Sometimes you like to play without Boromir, don't you?" I asked.
"Sometimes," he nodded, sniffing. "But I don't yell and be mean and –"
"I know you do not," I interrupted gently, "and Boromir was wrong to say those things to you. But sometimes Boromir likes to play by himself, too, you know."
"But – but he wasn't by himself!" he cried, frustrated. "He was with those other boys! Why does he want to play with them and not me?!"
I thought quickly. "Faramir, do you go everywhere with me, all the time?"
"N-no," he said, "sometimes you go out to the market or that other place or to talk to Mag."
"Does that mean that I do not like you any more?"
He looked shocked. "Oh, no, Nanny, I know you like me."
"Then why do I go to talk to Mag by myself, when I know that you like to visit the kitchens?"
He considered this for a moment. "Cause you're talking about me and Boromir and you don't want us to hear?"
I choked down a laugh. "On occasion," I admitted, "but not all the time. No, sometimes I just like to talk with Mag by myself. It is not because I am angry with you or anything of the sort – sometimes, I just want to spend my time in a different way. And maybe that is why Boromir wants to play with those other boys. Do you understand?"
Faramir was quiet for a long moment, and I almost thought that he had fallen asleep when he spoke. "But ...but I don't have anyone else to play with," he said softly. "Boromir has all those other friends to play with, and I don't have any friends that are four."
With a start, I realized that he was right. When Boromir was small, I had made certain that he had children his age to play with, but I had done no such thing for Faramir, thinking that he would be satisfied with his older brother's company. And he was – Faramir was always pleased to play with Boromir and the older boys and shadow them all over the Tower. I – or Lady Finduilas – had never formally invited any of the younger siblings, so of course Faramir had not had the opportunity to meet them.
I counted in my head, and came to the conclusion that Faramir knew perhaps three boys his own age, and they were infrequent visitors at best. I made certain that he and I had time alone – after all, Boromir had had me to himself for five years, and it would not have been fair for Faramir to get no such attention – but I had not considered finding appropriate playmates for Faramir.
That was not all I had to feel guilty about - I had not stopped to think how Boromir might feel about having his little brother tag along, once he began to grow older. And I should have – I had gotten very, very weary of having my younger siblings haunt my every waking moment.
I hugged Faramir close. "I am so sorry, little one," I said. "I did not think. Would you like it if we found you some friends who are four?"
"I…I think so," he replied, looking relieved. "I like playing with Boromir but those other boys sometimes are mean."
"I shall talk to your lady mother this very day," I assured him.
He gave one of those sweet, content smiles that always melted my heart, but then it turned into a frown. "Do you think I'm still a baby?" he asked worriedly, toying with my sleeve.
"Of course not," I said, smiling at him. "Babies cannot read and write, and you do both very well. And babies also are not allowed to have lessons even with wooden swords, are they?" He shook his head. "Using a wooden sword does not mean that you are a baby," I went on, "it simply means that you have not had enough lessons yet." My stomach twisted at the sudden image of this small boy grown, wielding a proper sword in battle.
"Now," I said, shoving such thoughts away, "are you ready for your lunch? They will bring it soon."
"Will you tell me a story while we're waiting?" Faramir asked hopefully.
"Of course I will," I replied, "what would you like to hear?"
"The one about the fisherman who married a seal-lady."
"All right," I agreed, and he settled himself against me. I combed my fingers through his hair as I began to speak. "Once there was a poor fisherman who lived on Belfalas Bay…"
Lunch arrived before I could finish the story, but when I looked down at Faramir, he was fast asleep. I was not surprised; he was likely worn out from the excitement of a visit to the stables, as well as by his emotional outburst. The food would keep til he awoke.
I carried Faramir to his room, laid him on his bed, and had just re-entered the playroom when the door banged open and Boromir tore in. I was ready to scold him until his ears rang – but when I looked at him, I saw that his face was white, and he looked very much as if he was holding back tears.
Before I could say anything, however, he stepped forward, swallowed hard, and blurted out, "Nanny – I lost Faramir. I yelled at him and he ran off and he's lost and I thought he would be here but now I can't find him and I don't know where he is and it's all my fault and no - "
"He is here," I said simply. Though I was angry at him for his behaviour, it was obvious that he was nearly frantic with worry, and I could not let him continue to think that Faramir was gone.
"Oh!" Boromir's mouth snapped shut, and the anxiety on his face was replaced with a kind of resigned guilt. "Did he –" he took a deep, shuddering breath, and faced me squarely. "I'm sorry, Nanny. I shouted at him and called him a baby. I told him to go away, and that I was tired of him pestering me all the time. And then he ran off."
I was rather surprised by Boromir's straightforward confession, but in truth, I was also relieved. "And why did you say those things to him?" I wanted to know. "You hurt his feelings very, very badly, Boromir. He thinks you do not like him any more."
He turned bright red, and I had to strain to hear his answer. "Nobody else has their little brother following them around all the time. I can tell they don't like it when he comes along."
Ah. Just what I had suspected. I sat down in one of the chairs at the table, and motioned Boromir over to me.
Reluctantly, he obeyed, and I took his hands in mine. "Do you like it when he comes along?"
"Sometimes." His voice was uneven. "But he's little, and he can't play our games – he will get hurt." I could see he was conflicted. "I still like him, Nanny. But…I don't want to play with him all the time. Sometimes I want to play with other boys. "
"Of course you do, duckling," I said calmly, and he looked surprised at my reaction. "There is nothing wrong with that. However – " I grew stern, "I am very disappointed that you would say such unkind things to Faramir. Would you like it if your uncle called you a baby in front of all his knights and told you to go away?"
Boromir winced. "No," he admitted quietly, tightening his hands on mine.
"And how do you think Faramir felt, when you called him a baby because he didn't have a proper sword, and in front of all those older boys?"
Now he pulled away from me, shame written all over his face. "I'm sorry," he whispered miserably. "I didn't mean to hurt his feelings, I just – " he gulped, "I just wanted to play with my friends without having to worry about him."
"I understand," I said, "and you are right, you should not have to feel that you are looking after your little brother all the time. That is my fault – I should have known that, and from now on, you both will have time to play with other children. But you must promise me that you will learn to think before you speak! I do not care what those other boys do, Boromir, you can not let what other people think cause you to be so cruel and thoughtless as you were today. Just because they say horrible things does not mean that you should, or that it is right."
"I will learn to think first," he promised, biting his lip. "Is – is Faramir angry?"
"I do not know," I said truthfully. "And if he is, he has reason to be."
Boromir sighed. "I would be angry if he'd said things like that to me," he said sadly. "I will tell him I'm sorry."
"That is all you can do," I told him gently. "And do not be too surprised if he stays angry for a little while. He was very upset when he thought that you did not like him any more."
Tears sprang to his eyes, though he did not let them escape, and I leaned forward to draw him into a hug. "Just be patient, my duckling, and give him time to calm himself. He still likes you as well, else he would not have been so hurt."
Boromir threw his arms around my neck. "I'm sorry I disappointed you, Nanny," he said in my ear. "I don't like to make you unhappy, and I don't like making Faramir angry. I won't let those other boys make me say mean things again."
He did apologize to Faramir profusely, though, as predicted, Faramir ignored his brother almost completely for the next two days. I knew better than to interfere, though it was difficult to see how stoically Boromir took Faramir's displeasure. Eventually, of course, Faramir forgave him, and I never heard either boy speak so harshly to the other again.
Boromir was given time each week when he could play with the older boys without Faramir's presence; Faramir quickly made a circle of friends amongst the younger children. The nursery was almost devoid of ugly squabbles, and for a while, life was, thankfully, much less stressful.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.